In hopes of cutting costs elsewhere, unionized faculty and staff members are calling on Vermont State Colleges System’s Board of Trustees to eliminate the Office of the Chancellor. The chair of the board is coming forward, saying that move won’t be possible.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers Vermont and the Vermont State Employees’ Association who work on the campuses want the chancellor’s position eliminated. They say that money can be better allocated elsewhere.
Current Chancellor Sophie Zdatny has the position until the end of the year. With a soon-to-be-vacant seat, the unions are rethinking how the school is run, and including the voices of faculty and staff members.
Vermont State University has seen a handful of budget cuts in different areas in the last few months. After the most recently proposed course and position cuts, AFT VT and VSEA are now calling on the University’s Board of Trustees to throw away the chancellor’s position.
VSEA says that would save around $300,000, and wants that money invested back into faculty, staff, frontline workers, and students.
“We’ve seen a massive growth in the amount of money that is being spent on well-paid executives in the chancellor’s office, president’s office,” says Steve Howard, the executive director of VSEA. “The further away you are from the students, the more money you’re getting paid.”
Alternatively, the unions say if the university cannot eliminate the position, they want their members included in the search and hiring process.
Board of Trustees Chair Representative Lynn Dickinson says cutting the chancellor position may not be possible.
She wrote in a statement, “no part of the system would function, and critical savings would not be realized, without these essential centralized operations.”
But she ensures the board is engaging in an “inclusive and transparent” search process for the next system leader.
Howard claims the Board of Trustees is not on campus every day and doesn’t know the extent of the situation.
“The system has gotten into the dire straits it found itself in because the leadership failed to listen to the people on the campuses, failed to listen to the students, failed to listen to the staff, failed to listen to the faculty,” says Howard.
Dickinson notes the chancellor oversees both CCV and VTSU, but Howard says all this work can be divvied out to the president’s office.
“Our members are doing two and three jobs,” says Howard, “so we think it’s only fair that the president learns what it’s like to be an employee of the system and take on some more responsibilities.”
Dickinson writes, “this feels like a distraction from the very real work of transforming the Vermont State Colleges system, all aspects of which are being carefully reviewed to find reductions and efficiencies to the right size so we can thrive.”
Howard hopes the board will look at these suggestions at their next meeting.
The hiring process for a new chancellor is still ongoing, according to Dickinson. She says in the coming weeks, VTSU will release plans to address its administrative costs.